A Better Customer Experience with VR
THE USE OF VIRTUAL REALITY (VR) IS BECOMING AN INCREASINGLY MORE IMMERSIVE BRAND MARKETING TOOL. THE PRIMARY COMMERCIAL OBJECTIVE? – TO OFFER CONSUMERS NEW EXPERIENCES THAT WERE PREVIOUSLY INACCESSIBLE. THANKS TO CREATIVE AND TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATIONS, BRANDS CAN USE VR AND ITS VARIOUS APPLICATIONS TO AWAKEN CONSUMERS' SENSES, AN EFFECTIVE EMOTIONAL TRIGGER.
Currently based in Luxembourg, and recently in Canada and China, Ludwig is one of the official creative agencies of adidas. The teams, led by Charles Nadler, manage all of the global campaigns for its outdoor category: adidas TERREX. At the end of 2017, the agency carried out a unique activation campaign in China's 10 largest cities, among others. Silicon had the opportunity to test its VR solution and learn its development secrets.
FROM DREAM TO REALITY & BACK AGAIN: A MENTAL, VISUAL & PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE
Merging immersive experiences with athletic performance through an engaging approach was the initial idea behind Ludwig's campaign. VR is appealing to brands today because of its novelty, variety and potential.
"It all started with a call from our customer team stating that two of our American athletes were climbing a rock wall in Corsica accompanied by a photographer equipped to capture 360° video. It was an opportunity to develop a new creative approach," Nadler said.
From there, the agency worked to develop an activation campaign based on educational and accessible storytelling in order to immerse the target audience in the climbers' adventure. How could they offer the audience a completely immersive experience?
"First of all, we talked with the athletes in order to get a real sense of the conditions and key elements of the climb and to communicate all of the details that made the experience interesting and successful," he added. "The central goal was not commercial, but rather to make an impression and engage consumers. The return on investment is long-term, since novice consumers may have had their first immersive experience thanks to the brand. It's all about brand awareness. Obviously, the project can then be accompanied by a commercial strategy. In our case, the consumer was invited to continue the experience in-store in order to benefit from exclusive and personalized offers. A highly engaging way to attract new targets."
Consumers have the opportunity to experience the same feelings as the athletes they follow every day on social networks. VR makes it possible to be closer to the action – at the center of the story. For this campaign, users were able to follow the athletes through all phases of the climb. Not only did they wear helmets for visual immersion, but the experience was also physical, since they were invited to take part in the story and climb the rock face. The sensations then became more realistic, from the sounds to the movements. "We developed this project – from the strategy and creative phases to the final production – in the span of three months. Through our community, we identified the experts in virtual reality development, and also in 3D, audio, motion design and retail design because the experience required a complete modeling of the environment. A real team effort!" Nadler said.
Because of the enthusiasm generated internally by this campaign, adidas decided to take this experience straight to the largest crowds. China and its flourishing mountain sports market immediately showed interested in this VR experience.
"We have deployed this campaign in China's 10 largest cities, especially in huge shopping centers that generate high traffic and brand visibility. In addition to the virtual experience, we have developed a physical experience with a real-world installation. We recreated part of the rock wall that is mobile and installed integrated digital screens to allow passersby to also partake of the experience,” he added.
THE ULTIMATE ATTENTION GRABBER
In terms of brand positioning, there is no doubt that such activation campaigns offer concrete added value for brands in search of innovation.
"The project is affordable depending on the level of experience that you want to develop," Nadler explained.
VR offers a new creative space for agencies and brands where the potential for development and deployment is still in its infancy. In terms of statistics, VR campaigns are less easily quantifiable than digital campaigns because the metrics are different: acquisition of new consumers versus number of unique visitors.
"In the case of activation campaigns based on virtual reality technology, we focus purely on the acquisition of new customers. These campaigns make an impact. When we deploy such a campaign in 10 big cities, the traffic and the hype are very important and the reaction on social platforms generates even more visibility. That's why it is beneficial to merge activation with a multimedia deployment strategy," Nadler said.
These campaigns reach both established and new consumers, as well as those who simply want to experience something unique that they will remember for their entire lives.
"Being able to experience a sensational sport, such as climbing, that requires great technical skills and a lifetime of learning, is an exceptional opportunity. It makes an impact, and for some people it turns a long-time dream into (virtual) reality!" he added.
These virtual experiences are often accompanied by physical experiences centered on a product. Commercial campaigns, therefore, find in VR an excellent springboard for attracting a wider range of customers and inspiring more purchases.
"Activation campaigns initiated by virtual reality are still quite new in Europe. We are aware of the growing interest in using these new tools. Many applications are possible in different fields: culture, technical industries, leisure, health...," Nadler explained.
The value comes from how VR is employed in the context of brand strategy and positioning.
"The VR solution should not replace the idea or the story. It's the storytelling that takes precedence. It must highlight what the brand offers from a unique point of view,” he said.
In the case of adidas and adidas TERREX, the solution provides a first climbing experience to brand admirers and potential consumers, and the chance to experience the lives of these hardcore athletes. The return on investment cannot necessarily be monetized, but it is emotional. Users will remember the experience and associate it with the brand. VR experiences associated with social and digital experiences will certainly increase in the future.
"There are communication channels that can be linked to VR campaigns without destroying budgets! It's all about creativity and storytelling," Nadler explained.
When a brand communicates, it stays committed to retaining its customers and wants to offer them products and services that are more efficient and personalized. Beyond that, there is also the desire to create a real emotional impact.
"For many of us, it's often the first time, and we always remember the first time!" Nadler asserted. "The spectrum of possibilities is still very wide. For brands, there is a big playground to leverage. They have the opportunity to inspire loyal consumers who will then become ambassadors. Pursuing emotional investment is the right move to make today!"
These are opportunities that brands must capitalize on.